WritersCorps celebrates 20 years of changing lives

WritersCorps, a program that teaches creative writing to young people to help them express themselves and succeed academically, is going strong as it enters its third decade.

“It helps them reflect, engage, think critically and work in collaboration with other students,” says Maddy Clifford, a WritersCorps teaching artist and writer-in-residence at San Francisco’s Juvenile Justice Center who is participating in the program’s 20th anniversary celebration Thursday at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

Clifford, also a poet (and rapper MADlines, who has a new album “Love Child”), says WritersCorp has shown her the power of the arts, and that “creative writing in particular is an essential part of young people’s learning process.”

She adds, “WritersCorps fully supports its teaching artists, so that we are very successful in the work that we do.”

Tom DeCaigny, director of cultural affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission, calls WritersCorps – a project of the commission and the S.F. Public Library – an “exceptional program that continues to transform the lives of young people year after year.”

WritersCorps places professional writers in schools, libraries, detention facilities and community centers. Over two decades, it has served about 20,000 people, ages 6 to 22, including low-income, immigrant and incarcerated youths.

Co-presented by the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Thursday’s event, “WritersCorps Live: 20 Years of Youth Voices,” features poetry readings by former and present WritersCorps students from Sanchez Elementary School, College Track, Hilltop School, Juvenile Hall, and elsewhere. Teaching artists Sandra Garcia Rivera and Rose Tully also appear.

Special guest is award-winning novelist NoViolet Bulawayo, who will read from her 2013 debut “We Need New Names,” which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Clifford has two students collaborating on a presentation for Thursday: Brianna, 17, a Gateway School student who plans to study music and hopes to rap and become a recording artist, and Aleja, 14, a Bay School student, who has been writing for years and wants to attend Stanford University, probably to study digital media and comedy. At press time, the two had not finalized their poetry piece. Clifford is not concerned: “It’ll just have to be a surprise,” she says.

For National Poetry Month in April, WritersCorps is sponsoring kiosks in public libraries where people can create live poetry. Visit www.sfartscommission.org/WC for details.


WritersCorps Live: 20 Years of Youth Voices

Where: Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., S.F.

When: 6:30 p.m. March 26

Tickets: Free

Contact: 415) 655-7851, www.sfartscommission.org/WC, www.thecjm.org

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